Your Medical Exam

To pinpoint the cause of your knee problem, your doctor will need to know how the problem started and what your symptoms are. You will be asked questions and have a physical exam. Tests, such as x-rays, may also be ordered.

Medical History

Your doctor will ask about your health history and any past knee injuries or surgeries. He or she will want to know how your knee problem started: Did it come on suddenly or over time?

Physical Exam

Your knee will be checked for pain, swelling, and limited motion. Your doctor may also check your thigh muscles for signs of shrinkage and weakness.

Diagnostic Test

The following tests can tell your doctor more about your knee:

  •     Aspiration uses a syringe tp remove any excess fluid from your knee. The fluid is then tested.
  •     Blood and urine tests may help diagnose your problem.
  •     X-rays produce images of the bones in your knee.
  •     MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) produces images of both the bones and soft tissues of your knee.
  •     Arthograms are special x-rays. Dye is injected into the knee to outline soft tissues.
  •     Arthroscopy is a form of surgery. A small lighted tube (arthoroscope) is inserted into your knee through a tiny incision. The doctor can then look inside your knee to locate problems. Repairs may also be done.

Common Knee Problems

ACL Ligament Tears

A fall, twist, or blow may tear the anterior cruciate ligament. ACL tears can cause pain, swelling, and an unstable knee.

Cartilage Wear

Aging or injury may wear away articulate cartilage. A piece may break off in the joint. You may feel pain, stiffness, or grinding.

Patella Problems

Aging, overuse, or injury may damage cartilage under the patella. This can limit joint movement. Structural problems may cause uneven wearing or pain.

Common Treatment Options

Meniscus Removal or Repair

Your surgeon may remove or repair damaged meniscal tissue. Torn tissue on the inside on the meniscus is often removed. Newly torn tissue on the outer edge of the meniscus can often be repaired. This tissue gets enough blood to heal properly.

Ligament Reconstruction

Your surgeon can reconstruct a damaged anterior cruciate ligament. The damaged tissue is replaced with healthy, strong tissue (a graft). The graft may come from the patellar ligament or from another source.

Cartilage Shaving or Removal

Your surgeon may smooth or shrink rough cartilage by shaving it or by using a thermal device. Or, your surgeon may drill exposed bone to make the cartilage grow. Any loose bodies may be removed.

Patella Smoothing or Release

Your surgeon may smooth or shrink bands of cartilage under the patella by shaving them or using a thermal device. If the patella is tilted, your surgeon may clip bands of tissue. This is called a lateral release. It aligns the patella with the femur.